With the playoffs underway, it’s that wonderful time of year when the pressure is at its very highest and every moment matters. But some teams are facing more pressure than others, so it’s time for our annual attempt to figure out which team is under the most.

Except … well, we all know, right?

It’s the Leafs. If there was any doubt, it was erased by Tuesday’s Game 1 debacle that has the entire fan base scrambling for torches and pitchforks. The Leafs haven’t won a series in forever, haven’t won a Cup in an even longer forever, have a longer streak of winner-takes-all losses than any team in sports history, and are facing a team they could beat but maybe can’t. If they win, they’re heroes who’ve been redeemed. If they lose, everyone who has ever worked for the team is getting fired, Auston Matthews is going to Arizona, Mitch Marner is going to prison and John Tavares will have a facial expression.

You’re sick of hearing about the pressure in Toronto. I get it. Every other fan base is sick of being told that the Leafs are the most interesting team in the world. But through this specific and particular lens, there really isn’t any argument, and it would feel silly to go through this whole exercise while pretending that there’s some sort of suspense here.

So we won’t. Instead, today’s list is a pressure ranking of the 15 teams that aren’t the Leafs. As always, our criteria will be:

  • Expectations factor: It’s not pressure if nobody thinks you’re going to win anything.
  • Drought factor: How long has it been since a team’s last moment of glory?
  • Ticking clock factor: Is this the first step down the road to a bright future, or the last chance before the window slams shut?
  • Special circumstances: For anything not captured above.

Add it all up and you get a score out of 30. If you’re wondering, the Leafs would come in at roughly 32. But enough about them, let’s count down the best of the rest.


15. Seattle Kraken

Expectations factor: 1/10. The Avalanche are massive favorites, with almost nobody picking Seattle. (Or literally nobody, in the case of our staff picks.)

Drought factor: 1/10. Seattle hasn’t won a single Cup since 1917! Also, it’s been two seasons, settle down.

Ticking clock factor: 2/10. You won’t get 40 goals from Jared McCann or 64 points from Vince Dunn every year, but it’s fair to say that this is just the beginning for the Kraken.

Special circumstances: +1. For Smokey MacKay. He knows what he did.

Pressure score: 5/30. This is pretty close to a perfect way for Seattle fans to ease into the madness of the NHL playoffs. Enjoy it, even if it turns out to be a short run. Trust me, it gets worse.